(In this post Dan Barkasi continues his monthly series recommending music from the month just ended.)
Here we go for round two of Essential Entries. You guessed it – we’re covering February this time. Yeah, yeah, suspense isn’t this guy’s strong point.
January gave us genius like Desolate Shrine and Agos, which is just what was needed to start things off right. How does February measure up? To quote one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time, “Great Scott!” If you don’t get that, I bestow upon you great shame. But yeah, February did bring the noise (no Public Enemy included). Here’s the proof, in no particular order.
A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See
Self-described as a secret society from Victorian-era 1895, A Forest of Stars compose music that’s as intricate and unique as their theming. Black metal with a lot of psychedelic elements is the most basic description, but really, their music is so much more. It’s a continuing story, and their latest chapter is awe-inspiring. Invest the time, as there’s a lot of layers, with the payoff being oh so worth it.
Abstracter – Wound Empire
To those who like their metal bleak, look no further than Abstracter. This being their second release, it’s a step up from their already impressive debut, developing their sound further into darkness. Think blackened doom with some crust elements in a lot of the riffing, and add buckets full of dissonance.
Acherontas – Ma IoN (Formulas of Reptilian Unification)
Black metal with a lot of depth and smoothness. Acherontas know how to weave some damn tasty songs, with a sharp black metal aesthetic that moves along unpredictably throughout. The attention to detail makes this disc, and the result is another fine example of Greece’s stellar metal scene.
Aethyr – Corpus
Russia has been upping its game when it comes to doom, with Aethyr being one of the better examples. The instrumentation and the songwriting ability are major selling points, as well as the variety. There are bits of drone and black, and even the slightest hint of an occasional post-metal section. For anybody who appreciates craftsmanship in their tunes.
Below the Sun – Envoy
Continuing the Russian doom theme is Below the Sun’s debut. These folks came right out of nowhere to deliver as intriguing and immersive a piece of progressive doom that these ears have heard in quite a while. You feel their music, and to this guy, that’s a quality that’s difficult to find. Listen immediately.
Crypt Sermon – Out of the Garden
To those who love classic, epic doom metal in the Candlemass style, Crypt Sermon is your band. It’s a style that when done well is inarguably potent, and these Philadelphia natives have it down with their own special touch. Polished, honed, and utterly flawless, this band is one to keep a keep eye on. It’s just so “huge” sounding! Dark Descent wins.
Death Karma – The History of Death and Burial Rituals Part I
A record about exactly what the title describes – the history of death and burial rituals. Each song is about said rituals in a specific country, giving a unique and historical context from the start. Oh yeah, and Death Karma deliver limb-ripping blackened death metal that is as potent as backwoods moonshine. Definitely one of the heaviest releases to drop this year and one of the most unique in its perspective.
Devouring Star – Through Lung and Heart
Finnish blackened/death with a lot of progressive feel is what these guys are throwing out on their fantastic debut. Think touches of avant-garde French black metal (Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega) with the ferocity of Ulcerate. One of the best of the year thus far, and it only gets better with each listen.
Endlesshade – Wolf Will Follow the Sun
Delivering death/doom with a tad bit of atmospheric black metal for good measure, these Ukrainians are anything but weak and feeble (had to go for the Seinfeld reference). Many twists and turns are on this record, with the clean sections giving the album miles of depth. Natalia Androsova’s pinpoint vocal attack wraps up this elaborate tapestry neatly. Adventurous listeners will be rewarded.
Hæthen – Shaped By Aeolian Winds
Black metal from the United States gets an unfair bad rap at times, and bands like Hæthen prove the quality that can come from the land of freedom toast. Riff-heavy and punchy, these guys pull no punches and come out with a blistering chunk of black metal goodness. There are also some solid atmospheric parts, too, providing the right amount of variety to keep things interesting.
Helrunar – Niederkunfft
So much pagan black metal is uninspired and “thin” sounding these days. It’s good to have a band like Helrunar provide some kick along with ample presence. Simply put, this album rips and doesn’t let up.
Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu
Icelandic black metal that’s as abrasive as it is murky and mysterious. This is the sort of thing that got me into the genre in the first place, and it’s refreshing to see a new band pulling it off so potently, but with their own stamp. The production also captures the essence of this sort of black metal to perfection. Purists and lovers of anything gloomy, this is for you.
NecroWretch – With Serpents Scourge
Speedy Frenchie death metal is NecroWretch’s forte. Nothing fancy – mainly a full-on crushing assault of raw goodness. A worthy sophomore full-length, following up the equally ripping Putrid Death Sorcery. Turn this one up!
Putrid Offal – Mature Necropsy
It’s really difficult to find worthy death/grind anymore. Thankfully, we have France to the rescue with Putrid Offal. Fair warning – prepare to be thoroughly crushed, trampled, and annihilated over and over. Doesn’t it feel good? Those guitars! Oh my.
Sarpanitum – Blessed Be My Brothers…
From some of the minds that brought you the incredible Mithras, we present Sarpanitum. This is truly progressive death metal that requires a time investment to fully appreciate, with said time being obviously worthwhile. It took four listens for everything to come to the surface, and there was no turning back once it did. The amount of nuances and little surprises to be found on this record are near limitless. Thought-provoking and hard-hitting, this is an album to be treasured.
Recueil Morbide – Morbid Collection
This was a very, very late entry. Thanks to fellow NCS writer KevinP for turning me onto this one, and it simply had to be added. They’re described as brutal death metal, which for this guy, is a huge grain-of-salt situation. Most brutal death metal is pure slop and doesn’t interest me much, but this is quite different. The technicality, songwriting acumen, and just the right amount of sheer aggression combine for a hell of a fun record. Give me more bands who can do this, please.
That’ll conclude the February edition! Stay tuned for March, as it’s just as loaded as the last month was. Thanks for all of the positive reaction I’ve received about this column, and as always, keep the comments coming. Something you think I missed? Tell me about it!
Thanks again. Until next time…